Pet portraits and pet paintings are something we see everywhere in this day and age. However it is not a new idea that we have beautiful drawings of our dearest pets done so we can cherish them forever.
The first known examples date back to over 17000 years ago when a number of ‘pet portraits’ were found in some caves in Altamira, Northern Spain. The paintings were discovered in 1879 by a little girl called Maria. She was out with her father who was an amateur archeologist and a Spanish nobleman. Maria’s father was investigating a cave he was hoping to find ancient tools that his ancestors may have abandoned on the cave floor from many thousands of years ago. He didn’t have much luck and Maria was getting bored, as she shuffled her feet through the dirt she happened to glance up at the ceiling. “Look Papa”, she said, “Bulls!
In 1903 long after the Spanish nobleman had died a young priest from France called Henri Bruil began documenting the paintings in the cave. Until that time academics had thought the paintings in the cave were no more than 20 years old, but over time as they were studied the world became more aware of the caves treasures.
Another famous example of pet paintings would be the caves of Lascaux in the South of France that were found in 1940. A bold and powerful horse portrait drawn on the wall of the cave. When Picasso first saw them he said ‘We have learned nothing’ He was astounded by the beauty and the strength of the images.
Cave paintings were the first pet portraits or pet paintings that man had created, it shows us all that although the people living in these caves where fully integrated into the natural world they were some how apart from it expressing themselves and communicating with their art and showing the importance that animals had in their lives.
I feel that this lives on today with animal art being a big part of our lives and has been throughout the ages. If you look for example at ancient Egyptian art in many of the tombs of the great pharaohs there are always portraits of cats or dogs these are a powerful symbols showing how close we are to our animals.
The more animals we domesticated the closer we got to our pets the stronger our relationships and bonds became and thus we see pet portraits created for the monarchs of England. King Charles being a famous one for example with his King Charles Spaniels. Charles had many pet paintings created of his beloved dogs.